When will iBooks really arrive?
So, 2015 is not that far away. And if predictions are to be believed, half of all books sold by then will be of the “e” variety. Everyone’s trying to bulk up their eBook offerings, ensuring that all new titles (and contracts with authors) include eBooks, and most publishers are dipping into their backlist feverishly trying to turn these books into eBooks.
Amazon, of course, is the presumed leader of the eBook realm (they don’t exactly report their numbers, so who really knows?). But when the iPad was launched, a lot of folks assumed Apple would be able to challenge Amazon’s dominance in this arena like no one else could. And yet, according to Piper Jaffray, when the iPad 2 went on sale this year, 24% of those in line owned Kindles versus 13% of iPad buyers the year before. Which poses the question: if Apple had really intended for the iPad to put pressure on Amazon, shouldn’t those numbers be flipped? The iPad, it would seem, is not exactly threatening the Kindle at all.
So it must sting that they haven’t made a little more progress with e-Books through iBooks by now. Which may be why, out of all the numbers they tout in their quarterly reports, they’re cagey about iBook sales. Nate Hoffelder had an excellent post on this for eBookNewser that outlined this situation:
When the 100 million download were mentioned at the iPad2 launch it referred to the entire year’s worth of downloads since iBooks was launched. When it was mentioned again during the call, there was no time frame attached. It’s possible but it doesn’t seem likely that iBooks had another 100 million downloads in the most recent quarter. If this were true, Apple would have boasted about it in the press release.
I’ve heard back from Apple, and the vague reference is all the information it will provide. Now, that is interesting. Here we have a company that regularly gives out detailed info – pretty much boasting about its accomplishments. But it won’t talk about iBooks.
I wouldn’t have cared if Amazon, Sony, or B&N had refused to share, but Apple is different. No one else gives details on how many devices or eBooks have been sold; Apple boasts. And when it doesn’t, you have to wonder what it is hiding.
I can only conclude that iBooks sales are so bad that Apple doesn’t want to tell me the real numbers.
For now anyway. The tech news leaks from the last couple of weeks may be telling us more about Apple’s long-term strategy to improve these numbers and how it plans to push its way to the top. When Apple watcher Patently Apple uncovered a patent application by Apple for a new dual display that would use both LCD and e-ink technology, iBooks was not really mentioned as an impetus for the new direction in displays. But it’s hard to ignore the implications here. Of the many reasons people have flocked to the Kindle and other e-readers is that the e-ink display is not backlit. E-ink is more akin to the reading experience of looking at the printed page of a real book. And as anyone who works on a computer for a living will tell you, it’s nice being able to read from a screen that’s not blaring at you if you plan to dig in with a good book.
Perhaps it was always Apple’s strategy to adapt the iPad and integrate e-ink at a more deliberate pace. Since they already had success with the iPhone–and it was that operating system that would run the iPad–there was no reason to put everything they might eventually want in a tablet if the product category had a history of failure. Apple tends to update hardware incrementally (they certainly didn’t have to wait to add a camera to the iPad until this year, but why spend all that money on cameras if no one buys the damn thing?), so it makes sense that the 3rd generation iPad will be jockeying harder for those all those eBooks set to be sold by 2015.
Come next year, those iBooks number might not be so vague anymore.